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ViaCast IP multicasting: The answer to broadband content delivery

For years, conventional television signals have been broadcast via satellite. For example, networks broadcast programming to cable headends and network affiliates around the country for delivery to home. Now the same is happening to media-rich Internet content such as video, voice, audio and data. The Internet is becoming a true broadcast medium. Using satellite IP multicasting technology, Internet content is being broadcast to Internet headends in order to bring content closer to the end user for a richer, more TV-like Internet experience. Traditional broadcasters can benefit from Internet-oriented technology for applications ranging from digital ad insertion to convergence of data with conventional programming, often called enhanced TV.

How many times have you watched a streaming video on the Web and encountered a jittery screen moving slower than the audio? Usually, the poor quality of the images is a result of overburdened terrestrially-based Internet backbones. An additional problem is point-to-point transmissions, in which servers and Internet connections are overtaxed because content providers must constantly resend broadband content to every requesting user.

Before Web surfers can get a TV-quality experience on the PC, service providers have to get more broadband content to users. The existing terrestrial infrastructure is too narrow to let more than a trickle of data through. That's the problem. But where do companies turn to find a solution?

The answer is broadband networking technology, Internet Protocol (IP) encapsulation and multicasting of broadband content. In multicasting, IP encapsulation is used to package the broadband content for transmission via satellite so that sophisticated content can be created one time and beamed simultaneously to multiple users. Media-rich content that would normally clog terrestrial lines, only allowing a fractional amount to actually leak through, is now delivered at high speeds via satellite to the edge of the Internet.

IP multicasting technology solutions Regardless of the underlying infrastructure, IP multicasting works by sending data from one point to multiple points. Data can be transmitted via satellite, cable, terrestrial wireless or other land-based networks. Encapsulating and compressing the data reduces its overall size and the amount of bandwidth needed. Unlike point-to-point transmission, multicasting allows a packet to be sent from one location to numerous locations simultaneously, resulting in cost-effective and efficient delivery.

The use of a DVB-based IP multicast satellite solution enhances the multimedia IP broadcast by bypassing the choked terrestrial Internet backbones. Through powerful media streaming servers, together with a broadband satellite receiver, the content is brought closer to end users in order to dramatically improve their Web experience.

By embracing the IP and DVB standards, content providers, ISPs and other groups can deliver broadband content such as broadcast-quality audio and video. As such, the standards have become the de facto high-speed data transmission technology, which is already at work in the broadcast environment. For example, Williams-Vyvx uses IP multicasting for its digital ad insertion broadcast clients.

Digital ad insertion via satellite Williams-Vyvx provides digitized commercials from advertising agencies to over 700 TV stations in almost every media market in the U.S. Prior to IP multicasting, Williams-Vyvx received advertisements from its customers, manually cut tapes from a master tape, and then distributed the tapes to the individual TV stations. Although the initial quality of the video was excellent, the viability of these tapes was short term. The boxing and shipping of the tapes was also very expensive. Williams-Vyvx identified IP multicasting satellite technology as a better solution for distributing broadcast-quality TV commercials.

So Williams-Vyvx changed the format of the video advertisements to digital and created a better method of transmission. Next, Williams-Vyvx installed a receiver and satellite uplink device at its headquarters in Oklahoma, as well as a receiver and downlink at the numerous TV stations receiving the content. Williams-Vyvx chose ViaCast's Forte DVB IP Gateway and IP-COMPANION satellite router for their end-to-end solution. Combined, the two make for a comprehensive end-to-end broadband solution. Furthermore, their embedded network appliance designs offer reliability and simple provisioning of broadband content delivery. Using IP multicasting to transmit and receive video advertisements, TV stations can now store the content in digital form, significantly improving its shelf life.

The Forte "carrier class" Gateway was the right choice for providing media-rich broadband IP content streams from the Williams-Vyvx satellite uplink facility to the numerous TV stations. The Forte's multiprotocol encapsulation (MPE) solution delivered IP data directly for output to the IP-COMPANION receiver over satellite, at speeds of up to 45Mb/s. The Gateway's fully embedded (non-NT-based) operating system allowed changes in quality of service and service type in real time, without the service outages incurred in rebooting an NT-class machine. This embedded design eliminated common problems such as blue screen lock-ups and incompatible application software often associated with NT-based gateway and receiver products generally available in the marketplace today.

The IP-COMPANION satellite router works by receiving satellite signals and outputting IP data via an Ethernet 10/100Base-T interface to a desktop, LAN or Internet headend. In addition, for ease of management, the IP-COMPANION can be controlled remotely from the Web and supports full SNMP and HTTP management capabilities.

The DVB standard for simultaneous data broadcast to different locations allows high quality digital ad insertion to take place in real time with a better video image. The MPE technology was used for both the encoding and transmission of the video by Williams-Vyvx, and by the TV stations to receive and decode the content. Implementing the solution on both the encoding and receiving ends allowed Williams-Vyvx to leverage its full bandwidth. In fact, because the company had use of a full satellite transponder, the transmission could reach speeds of up to 45Mb/s.

The future of IP multicasting: Internet and interactivity Down the road, program originators will benefit from IP multicasting. Broadband content can be encapsulated as IP at the origination end and transmitted via satellite to broadcast networks, cable headends or ISPs domestically and internationally. At the headend, the content can be stored on caching servers. Replicating websites and foregoing terrestrial hops that delay access allows Web surfers to experience a faster Internet.

This revolution is underway now. Industry analysts expect the content distribution and caching industry to reach $2.2 billion by 2002.

Although IP multicasting solutions are available to address broadband content delivery problems today, the technology is evolving rapidly. No company currently uses all of their bandwidth capabilities. Satellites are becoming the most efficient way to pass broadcast-quality content - making the Internet a true broadcast medium.

For more information on ViaCast's IP multicasting solutions, circle (454) on Free Info Card.